Theresa May wins hollow victory
PUBLISHED: 22:14 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 22:15 12 December 2018
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Theresa May has silenced the hard Brexit wing of the Conservative party after seeing off a challenge to oust her from Number 10.
During a night of high drama in Westminster the prime minister was backed by her MPs gaining a total of 200 votes. She can now not be challenged again as leader for 12 months.
But 117 MPs voted against the PM – a much greater number than predicted prior to the announcement.
All of our region’s Tory MPs are thought to have voted in favour of the prime minister although the ballot will remain secret.
Mid Norfolk MP and Mr May’s former policy advisor George Freeman said: “Now we can get back to work on what the British people sent us here to do: deliver a Withdrawal Agreement for an orderly Brexit that works for the many not the few.”
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith added: “I’m pleased for the prime minister but most of all keen that we now get on with things and make a success of the big issues for my constituents and for the whole country.”
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said: “I am pleased and relieved. But it was a significant vote against which can’t be ignored. This means there is still some way to go before she can consider bringing her Withdrawal Agreement back to the House.”
And Great Yarmouth MP and party chairman Brandon Lewis added: “Glad my colleagues have supported the PM to continue to deliver for the UK, gaining more votes than in her 2016 leadership campaign. We now must focus on getting the right deal for Brexit and our domestic agenda.”
But the challenge to the prime minister has not left her unscathed. In a bid to ease some MPs doubts she told a packed meeting prior to the ballot opening that she would not lead the party into the 2022 election.
When previous leaders have used this tactic – notably in recent years Tony Blair and David Cameron – it has diminished their authority and left many people wondering exactly when they would depart.
And as the result was announced Mrs May’s detractors were quick to point out that a third of her MPs did not support her. Leading Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg asked the PM to consider her position in light of the numbers who opposed her.
But speaking outside Downing Street after the announcement Mrs May remained defiant.
“This has been a long and challenging day, but at the end of it I’m pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight’s ballot.
“While I’m grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me, and I have listened to what they said.
“Following this ballot we need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country.”
And the PM hinted at working more closely with other parties in a bid to break the Brexit stalemate saying she was determined to deliver Brexit and adding “that must start here in Westminster with politicians on all sides coming together and acting in the national interest”.
“For my part I have heard what the House of Commons said about the Northern Ireland backstop and when I get to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns that members of parliament have on that issue,” she said.
“But while delivering Brexit is important we also need to focus on the other issues that people feel are vital to them and matter to them today.”
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the no confidence victory meant nothing while the PM could not win the backing of the House of Commons for her Brexit plan.
“Tonight’s vote makes no difference to the lives of our people,” he said. “The prime minister has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.
“That’s why she pulled the vote on her botched Brexit deal this week and is trying to avoid bringing it back to parliament. It’s clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe.
“She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so parliament can take back control.
“Labour is ready to govern for the whole country and deliver a deal.”